Municipal waste statistics for Ireland

EPA waste data release 10 Nov. 2022. Latest reference year 2020 (Data subject to Eurostat validation)

Municipal waste is made up of household waste and commercial waste that is similar to household waste. The EPA reports data on how much municipal waste is generated and how it is treated.

Our national municipal waste data releases are based on information compiled in line with European rules. For reporting year 2020, Europe changed those rules and the municipal information from 2020 onwards is therefore not directly comparable to earlier data.

Applying the new rules, Ireland generated 3.2 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2020 and recycled 41 per cent of it.


MSW arriving and being picked for initial sorting

What is municipal waste? 

In our everyday lives we produce a general mix of waste in our homes, offices, schools and similar premises. This type of waste is called municipal waste. It is usually collected at kerbside or we can bring it to collection centres e.g. bring banks or civic amenity facilities. The amount of municipal waste generated is an important measure of how wasteful our everyday lives are.

Municipal Waste includes the following waste types:

  • Residual (i.e. black bin) waste is mostly mixed waste that cannot be recycled.
  • Recyclable (i.e. green bin or segregated) waste is, for example, clean glass, plastic, paper, cardboard and metals.
  • Organic (i.e. brown bin) waste is mainly food and garden waste.
  • Bulky waste is, for example, waste that does not fit into a wheelie bin, such as broken furniture, carpets, toys etc.
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).

Key findings for 2020

  • Ireland generated 3.2 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2020, up 4 per cent from 3.1 million tonnes in 2019 (refer to Table 1). Between 2016 and 2020 municipal waste grew steadily each year from 2.7 million tonnes to 3.2 million tonnes.
  • Of this, 57 per cent came from households and 43 per cent came from commercial and public service sources (refer to Table 2).
  • The largest increase was seen in the collection of bulky waste, which increased by more than 60,000 tonnes (see Table 3 and footnote).
  • Some 1.3 million tonnes of municipal waste generated in Ireland was recycled in 2020, resulting in a recycling rate of 41 per cent[1]. This indicates that we face significant challenges to meet the upcoming EU recycling targets for 2025 to 2035[2] (refer to Figure 2)
  • Of the municipal waste recycled in 2020, 959,100 tonnes went for material recycling (up 12 per cent on 2019) and 350,204 tonnes were composted (up 16 per cent in 2019) (Table 1 and Figure 1).
  • A rounded 1.4 million tonnes, or 42 per cent, of Ireland’s municipal waste went for incineration with energy recovery in 2020. This reverses the upward trend of the share of municipal waste incinerated in Ireland (Figure 3). 
  • Ireland’s landfill rate for municipal waste was 16 per cent in 2020, up slightly from 15 per cent in 2019. There has been a steep decline in Ireland’s landfill rate for municipal waste from over 80 per cent in 2001. Ireland must reduce the share of municipal waste landfilled to 10 per cent or less by 2035, which takes account of waste landfilled at each step along the waste treatment process in Ireland and abroad.
  • Ireland’s reliance on the export of municipal waste abroad for final treatment decreased slightly in 2020 (Table 4). An estimated 39 per cent (1.3 million tonnes) of all municipal waste generated was exported abroad in 2020, down from 40 per cent in 2019. Of the waste exported, most went for recycling (57 per cent) or energy recovery (33 per cent) while 8 per cent went for composting or anaerobic digestion (these rates are similar to those reported in 2019).


A combined column and line chart showing the tonnes of municipal waste generated from 2010 to 2020 as columns. Lines indicate per cent municipal waste recycled for the same period and the EU recycling targets for 2020 to 2035. Municipal waste increased from 2.6 million tonnes in 2014 to 3.2 million tonnes in 2020. The per cent recycling was 40 in 2014 and 41 in 2020. The 2020 target of 50 per cent rises to 65 per cent in 2035.

Figure 2. Ireland's generation and recycling of municipal waste compared to EU targets.



A combined column and line chart showing the tonnes of municipal waste managed from 2010 to 2020 as columns. Lines indicate percentages of landfill, material recycling, composting and digestion, and energy recovery. The per cent landfill decreased from 56 per cent in 2010 to 16 per cent in 2020; the per cent energy recovery increased from 7 per cent to 43 per cent and the per cent recycling form 36 per cent to 41 per cent over the same period.

Figure 3. Trends in the management of municipal waste in Ireland, 2010 to 2020.


A combined column and line chart showing the tonnages of municipal waste generated from 2010 to 2020 as columns. The line shows disposable income in million Euro for the same period. Tonnes of municipal waste increased from 2.8 million tonnes in 2016 to 3.2 million tonnes in 2020. Disposal income displays a similar trend and increased from 238,507 million Euro to 280,670 million Euro over the same period.

Figure 4. Tonnage of municipal waste generated and gross national disposable income, 2010 to 2020.


The 2020 data highlight the need for implementing policy measures to prevent municipal waste and break the link between economic growth and waste generation. The most recent data shows the municipal waste generation trend is going in the wrong direction and increasing steadily. Over the last five years of reporting, municipal waste generation has grown by over 440,000 tonnes, a 16% increase in the quantity reported in 2016. Correlating trends between municipal waste generation and disposable income (refer to Figure 4) over this period suggest a strong link between economic and waste growth.

The quantity of waste recycled has kept pace with the increases in waste generation, and the rate of recycling has therefore changed little. In 2016 and 2020, recycling was at 41 per cent. The gap to the 2025 target is considerable (14 per cent) and cannot be bridged without targeted interventions.

The measures in place to curb municipal waste generation and/or increase recycling include waste treatment levies, waste collection charges, enforcement action, awareness-raising campaigns and education.

Waste composition analysis carried out by EPA in 2018 documents that almost 70 per cent of non-household waste collected in residual bins could be recycled if it had been placed into the recycling or organic waste collection. The introduction of a mandatory incentivised charging system for non-household municipal waste is a measure required to incentivise waste reduction and boost Ireland's recycling percentages.

Reporting note

Our national municipal waste data releases are based on information that is in line with the data we submit to Eurostat (the statistical office of the European Union) to fulfil our municipal waste reporting obligations. For reporting year 2020, Eurostat changed the reporting rules for municipal waste. The Irish information published in 2019 and earlier years is therefore not directly comparable to the information released from reporting year 2020 on.

The data we submit to Eurostat satisfy our reporting requirements under the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive and the OECD/Eurostat Joint Questionnaire. The data are to be submitted at the end of Q2 of the reference year +2. Following validation by Eurostat, official statistics for Ireland and all Member States are published on the Eurostat website as part of the ‘Municipal waste by waste management operations’ dataset. Data on municipal waste recycling rates for Member States are also published on the Eurostat website

About Our Waste Statistics

View information about how the EPA compiles and reports Official European Waste Statistics.

[1] This roughly corresponds to 39 per cent when adjusted to the rules in place for 2019 and suggests a moderate improvement on the 37 per cent of municipal waste Ireland recycled in 2019.

[2] The recycling percentages under the revised WFD are set to increase to 55 per cent from 2025, 60 per cent from 2030 and 65 per cent from 2035.